COUSHATTA, LA (KSLA) - Coushatta-native Kevin Coleman is one of the top professional racing pilots in the world. He used historic flooding on the ground in Louisiana, as motivation in the air, halfway across the globe.
"Seeing all these images of what was happening back home, was definitely surreal," said Coleman. "It definitely motivated me."
Red Bull Air Race is the fastest motor sport in the world.
"It's extremely fun, it's about fifty feet off the ground the entire time, 200 miles per hour," said Coleman.
Coleman navigates through inflatable pylons, at an average speed of 200 miles per hour.
The Coushatta, Louisiana native is the first American to ever fly the Red Bull Air Race Challenger Cup.
"The best pilots in the world, it's by invitation only," said Coleman.
One of just 24 pilots, he's the only American.
Flying is in Coleman's blood. His Dad was an air show pilot, as well as his older brother.
"This is what I've wanted to do since I was three years old," said Coleman.
He saw his first Red Bull Air Race in 2003.
"I was 13 years old and knew that's eventually what I wanted to do," said Coleman. "They recruited me for a few years and now, here I am."
Coleman compared his comfort in the sport of Red Bull Air racing with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"It's just something I've always been around. I started flying lessons when I was ten years old," said Coleman.
By 16 years old, Coleman soloed a Cessna 150 and a 180-horsepower Super Decathlon.
He earned his bachelor's degree in aviation management from Louisiana Tech University.
In his first race, as the youngest pilot competing in Abu Dhabi, the 25-year-old Coleman finished in second place.
"It's really exciting so it was good to be able to do that for my friends and family and also for the region here with the flooding going on," said Coleman.
While in Abu Dhabi for two weeks, preparing for the biggest race of his career, Coleman kept up with friends and family, battling historic flooding in Louisiana, through social media.
"It really was a motivator, it made me want to do that much better, to represent Louisiana and the United States on a world level," he said.
Motivation and focus, half a world away, despite devastation in his hometown of Coushatta, Louisiana.
"You know you see it on the news or whatever and it's somewhere else so you feel bad for those people but you really don't understand until something happens to your hometown," said Coleman.
Coleman's second place finish in Abu Dhabi brought hundreds of comments and messages on social media from back home.
"A lot of these people that have commented are from this area, Shreveport/Bossier, from Coushatta from the surrounding areas," he said. "It made me feel good that those people got a little bit of happiness, even though flooding was going on from something I was doing."
He's glad to be back on the ground in Louisiana to see friends and family and help continue the cleanup effort from flooding.
"Part of me wanted to come home when I was in Abu Dhabi but I knew I couldn't," he said. "I plan on spending as much time with friends and family before I have to fly back out again."
He not only competes in Red Bull Air Races but he also flies air shows professionally and is on the U.S. Aerobatics team.
"I'm basically doing three different styles of flying right now," said Coleman. "So on a typical day I'll practice some air show stuff, practice some competition stuff and practice some race stuff so I fly around three times a day, five to six days a week."
Coleman's work ethic is not only paying off through his second place finish in Abu Dhabi but he will also be competing in the World Aerobatics Championships, representing Team USA in Poland in August.
"Hopefully I can represent the United States and Louisiana and eventually win a Red Bull Air Race World Championship.
Coleman's next Red Bull Air Race is in Austria in April.